California multi-instrumentalist and "hired gun"-style session man Emmett Kelly worked with many of indie rock's top names before branching out with his own music under the name the Cairo Gang. Kelly had added his talents to tours and albums by artists like Joan of Arc, Azita, Angel Olsen, Sonny Smith, Beth Orton, and many others by the time the Cairo Gang's self-titled debut appeared in 2006. Kelly continued work as a session player as well as doing his own albums and tours, opening dates for the Fall and OCS (later Thee Oh Sees). First released in 2008, the full-length Twyxt Wyrd was later reissued in 2010, the year that also found the Cairo Gang credited largely on Bonnie "Prince" Billy's critically acclaimed album The Wonder Show of the World. Though Kelly had worked with Will Oldham since his stoic 2006 album The Letting Go, credit going to his nom de plume grew the Cairo Gang's profile significantly, and began a series of collaborative efforts between the two entities. Kelly continued issuing his own work, including several lesser releases as well as 2012's full-length The Corner Man.
By 2013 he had relocated to Chicago and expanded the group from one-man band status to a fully realized band. Joined by bassist Ryan Weinstein, drummer Ben Babbitt, and guitarist Sam Wagster, Kelly set about working on a short mini-album called Tiny Rebels. The micro-album was heavy on 12-string guitar jangle and was released in the summer of 2013. Delving further into the pop end of the jangle pop spectrum, the Cairo Gang's next album, 2015's Goes Missing, featured Kelly playing most of the instruments, with occasional help from Marc Riordan on drums and Joshua Abrams on bass. He next joined Ty Segall's band, playing at live shows and on Segall's self-titled 2017 album. Along the way, he relocated to Los Angeles and changed the way he recorded. Working with Segall at his home studio, he cut the basic tracks live with Segall on drums (and occasional bass from Shayde Sartin and Ryan Weinstein), then overdubbed the rest himself. It led to 2017's Untouchable, the first Cairo Gang album to sound like the work of a live band. ~ Fred Thomas